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Trump under political and media pressure to sell off his businesses

Thursday, November 24, 2016 13:19
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Much has been written here and elsewhere about the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s conflicts of interest. But, what about Donald Trump? John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker,

During the campaign, Trump said that, if elected, he would hand over the running of the Trump Organization to three of his children: his two sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., and his eldest daughter, Ivanka. Some observers initially described this arrangement as a “blind trust,” but legal experts quickly pointed out that it would be neither blind (Trump would be well aware of the identity of his businesses) nor a trust (the people running it wouldn’t be independent from Trump).

For historical reasons, Presidents are exempted from many of the conflict-of-interest laws that apply to other federal officeholders, such as Cabinet members.

This exemption dates back to the earliest days of the Republic, when Presidents tended to be wealthy plantation owners with large holdings of land and slaves. The Founding Fathers were well aware that men of this ilk would see their fortunes affected by some of the policies that the federal government would pursue, such as those relating to agriculture and tariffs.

Rather than forcing a President to recuse himself from dealing with these issues, or to sell off his holdings, they decided to cut him some slack. Early Congresses went along with this arrangement, which survives to this day. “Because the president of the United States is the single most consequential decision maker on the planet, Congress has decided his hands shouldn’t be tied on any issue because of conflicts of interest over any potential financial or personal gain,” Norman Eisen, a former ethics counsel to the Obama Administration, who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

…As far as I can see, there are only two ways out of this conundrum. One would be for Trump to decide that he doesn’t want the job of President after all, and let Mike Pence do it. The other option is for Trump to sell off his businesses and put the money raised into a bank account, U.S. Treasury bonds, or a genuinely blind trust, which wouldn’t inform him about what investments it had made.

…“Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world,” he said Monday night on Twitter. “Only the crooked media makes this a big deal.”

Read more here.


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